Back to winning ways with back 3

Chelsea striker Diego Costa celebrates scoring the visitors' second goal against Hull City in the 67th minute with team-mate Willian. Willian fired the Blues in front in the 61st minute of the Premier League game.
Chelsea striker Diego Costa celebrates scoring the visitors' second goal against Hull City in the 67th minute with team-mate Willian. Willian fired the Blues in front in the 61st minute of the Premier League game.PHOTO: REUTERS

Conte is rewarded for new system involving three centre-backs with 2-0 win over Hull

LONDON • As a manager brought up on steely Italian defensive discipline, Antonio Conte must have had some sleepless nights in the past week worrying about Chelsea's creaky rearguard.

Seven goals conceded in their last three games, including three before half-time at Arsenal the week before, had undermined a previously encouraging start to the season.

The mistakes were eradicated on Saturday though as Chelsea, employing a new defensive formation, returned to form with a 2-0 Premier League victory at Hull City.

Well-taken second-half goals from Willian and Diego Costa earned the Blues their fourth league win of the embryonic season. It was a victory built on solid foundations rather than scintillating play but it left Conte a much happier man after his decision to start with three centre-backs in David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill.

"More than the system, what's important is the principles, then you can change," the Italian said of the new ploy. "This week we've worked a lot, we must find the right way to be more compact. A clean sheet is important for the confidence. We are working very hard and we must continue in this way."

While the defensive errors that have plagued Chelsea in recent weeks were absent, their attacking play also benefited from the pace and width provided by wing-backs Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso.

"I'm pleased with the whole game because in England, no game is easy," said Conte.

"Today, I knew it would be very tough but we played with the right intensity and with good pressure."

The former Italy coach also had special praise for Costa, as the revitalised Spain forward took his season's tally to six goals in seven games.

Costa did not reach the half-dozen goal mark until the first week of January last season, but the temperamental star looks back to his best under Conte.

His attacking partnership with Willian and Eden Hazard proved unstoppable for slumping Hull as the former opened the scoring before Costa wrapped up all three points.

"It's fantastic for him, for us," said Conte. "He has scored six goals but I think Diego has the opportunity every game to score goals.

"It's important he scored a goal but it's important he's working for the team. For me, this is the most important thing - together with Willian, together with Hazard.

"I'm pleased with the attitude and commitment of the players. We're working hard and I think that's the right way."

Hull caretaker manager Mike Phelan admitted that his side were careless with the ball.

"I was encouraged after the first half. I thought we took Chelsea to certain limits and created a few chances. But, at this level, you need to take them to be in the game," he said. "We did not treat the ball with the care and attention it deserved and when you do that, you get punished.

"I'm looking forward to a break. My future will take care of itself. I'm not in a position of panic. I'm not shying away from the challenge. It's hard in this division and we're a newly-promoted team."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2016, with the headline 'Back to winning ways with back 3'. Print Edition | Subscribe